US diplomacy with N. Korea to continue until 'first bomb drops'

WASHINGTON, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that President Donald Trump had instructed him to continue diplomatic efforts to calm rising tensions with North Korea, saying "those diplomatic efforts will continue until the first bomb drops."

Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Tillerson downplayed messages that President Trump had previously posted on Twitter suggesting Tillerson was wasting his time trying to negotiate with "Little Rocket Man," a derogatory nickname Trump has coined for North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump "has made it clear to me to continue my diplomatic efforts," Tillerson said.

Tillerson's comments Sunday come amid soaring tensions between the United States and North Korea following a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang and a war of words between the two countries' leaders.

RELATED: Countdown to a standoff -- A timeline of tension with North Korea

11 PHOTOS
Countdown to a standoff: A timeline of tension with North Korea
See Gallery
Countdown to a standoff: A timeline of tension with North Korea

Jan. 6, 2016:

After four years in power, Kim Jong Un says his country can produce a hydrogen bomb, the first step toward a nuclear weapon that could target the United States. The nation tests a device, but Western experts are not convinced it is a genuine hydrogen bomb.

Feb. 7, 2016:

North Korea sends up a satellite. The United States calls this a disguised test of an engine powerful enough to launch an ICBM.

March 9, 2016:

North Korea claims it can miniaturize a nuclear device to fit onto a missile.

June 23, 2016:

North Korea says it has successfully tested an intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM), with a range of 2,000 to 3,400 miles. Kim Jong Un claims the country can now attack "Americans in the Pacific operation theater," including the territory of Guam.

Sept. 9, 2016:

North Korea conducts its fifth and largest nuclear test on the anniversary of the country's founding. It says it has mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile.

April 15, 2017:

North Korea reveals a new ICBM design, displaying the missiles at a military parade to mark the birthday of founding leader Kim Il Sung. Within three months, the missiles are tested.

July 4, 2017:

North Korea tests an ICBM for the first time, saying it can launch a missile that can reach the continental United States. The missile, Hwasong-14, is tested again three weeks later, this time in a night launch.

Aug. 8, 2017:

North Korea's army threatens to fire missiles towards Guam in an "enveloping fire." The message comes hours after President Donald Trump warns Pyongyang that it will be "met with fire and fury" if North Korea does not stop threatening the United States.

Aug. 23, 2017:

North Korea publishes photographs of Kim beside a diagram of what appears to be a new ICBM. Weapons experts say it will be more powerful than the missiles tested by Pyongyang in July, and could have Washington and New York within range.

Aug 29, 2017:

North Korea fires an intermediate range missile over northern Japan, prompting warnings to residents to take cover. The missile falls into the Pacific Ocean, but sharply raises tensions in the region.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

North Korea has conducted a series of nuclear tests in recent weeks and ago and launched two missiles over Japan.

Tillerson has been in talks with China to enlist its help in getting North Korea to back down.

But Trump's recent Twitter messages appeared to undercut Tillerson's efforts, prompting the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker to complain that Trump was publicly castrating Tillerson and hurting diplomatic talks.

Tillerson downplayed those tweets Sunday, telling CNN that Trump and China's President Xi Jinping have an extremely close relationship and that China understands the U.S. position.

"Rest assured that the Chinese are not confused in any way" about the American policy towards North Korea, he added.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.